Blessing Emergency Center sees increase in sexual assaults; moves to upgrade services

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With a double-digit increase in the number of sexual assault survivors over the past two years, Blessing Hospital's Emergency Center is partnering with the State of Illinois and a private company to better handle the situation.

QUINCY — With a double-digit increase in the number of sexual assault survivors over the past two years, Blessing Hospital’s Emergency Center is partnering with the State of Illinois and a private company to better handle the situation.

During 2020, the year of the pandemic, 36 sexual assault survivors came to the Blessing Emergency Center for care.  During 2022, the number increased to 51.

The state and a private company, Frontline Forensics, have created a regional network to provide on-call assistance and supplement the expert care provided by specially-trained nurses already meeting patient needs in a nine-county area of Illinois, which includes Blessing.

The Blessing Emergency Center team has 13 registered nurses who are trained to provide care and related assistance to sexual assault survivors. Known as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), the nurses are trained in medical-forensic exams and evidence collection, compliant with the Sexual Assault Survivor Emergency Treatment Act.

“Our nurses who respond to sexual assault cases have more than 40 hours of classroom education and have completed several components of clinical education,” said Karla Paris, RN, director, Blessing Emergency Center and member of the departments sexual assault nurse examiner team.

Karla Paris, RN, director, Blessing Emergency Center

“We have a great team of RNs who do this vital work,” Paris added. “But when the opportunity arose to enhance our response in the face of an increasing need, we took it.”

A collaborative on-call schedule with Blessing Hospital and Frontline Forensics will provide 24/7 care to adult and adolescent sexual assault victims in the Emergency Center. This partnership ensures a nurse with experience in sexual assault care is available at all times to victims.

“Frontline Forensics is excited to partner with Blessing Hospital in an effort to provide continued coverage for survivor-centered care across the western region of Illinois,” said Kristin McGrath, chief executive officer and company founder. “Our mission is to place the priority on the health and safety of the patient first. We provide knowledgeable and compassionate medical-forensic care and evidence collection, while creating a supportive role for SANEs and a sustainable solution for hospitals.”

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